Two-Minute Homily by Fr Anthony Mellor for the Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time 2023.
“This Sunday, we hear a tender, encouraging image to contemplate. When it all goes wrong and we begin to drown, Jesus reaches out and holds us.”
- Two-Minute Homily Transcript
Two-Minute Homily TranscriptAuthor: Archdiocese of Brisbane
Back in 1986, a prolonged drought in Israel caused the level of the Sea of Galilee to recede. This exposed the muddy bottom of the lake and a revealed the boat buried there. Carbon dating placed the age of the boat to around the first century. About the time of Jesus. The mud had protected it from decay. Who knows whether Jesus came into contact with this boat, but the point is that we can presume that this was fairly typical of the fishing boats from that time. Interestingly, the boat was composed of ten different types of wood, suggesting that it had been repaired often.
Boats play a large role in the gospel story and are mentioned around fifty times. The image of the boat in scripture has come to be identified as a symbol of the church. In this story, Jesus isn’t in the boat. Jesus has told his disciples to ahead of him while he goes off alone. All the while, he’s keeping a watchful eye on his disciples as they cross the lake. All of this takes place during the fourth watch of the night, following the Roman practice, this was before dawn.
So it was dark and presumably they were weary. So, here we have a group of terrified disciples, in the dead of night, on a tiny boat, and the captain of the sailing boat takes fright and begins to drown when he feels the force of the wind. Like the first century boat discovered in the muddied waters, the church has looked as though it has been sinking many times and, over centuries, undergone countless repairs. The Church, too, is made from wood, the wood of the cross. The cross is our masthead and through the cross God gathers together and transforms all human suffering and every human failure, and every sinking, terrifying human moment.
This Sunday, we hear a tender, encouraging image to contemplate. When it all goes wrong and we begin to drown, Jesus reaches out and holds us. For all our doubts, may we sense the presence of God in the still silence of our darkest nights when we cry out, “Lord, save me”. In the promise of the light of dawn, may this silence be broken with the consoling voice of Christ which says, “Courage! It is I! Do not be afraid.”